[OPE] Fw: A thought about Rosa Lichtenstein's problem (rejoinder)

From: Jurriaan Bendien <adsl675281@telfort.nl>
Date: Thu Sep 10 2009 - 13:50:01 EDT

"Rosa" (she or he is talking cowardly from behind a pseudonym) claims:

> Well, Marx added that the two interconnected 'halves' of a 'dialectical
> contradiction' "mutually exclude one another". If that is so, then they
> cannot exist together, which means that cannot 'contradict' one another in
> the way you require. On the other hand, if they do 'contradict' one
> another, and both exist at the same time (perhaps as opposing forces, or
> determinations (depending on how you give them physical being)), then they
> cannot "mutually exclude" one another.

But this is a petitio principii, Rosa just assumes what has to be proved. I
defined a dialectical contradiction very clearly, as two opposite conditions
which nevertheless presuppose each other and depend on each other for their
existence, a situation which can exist because the opposition of the two
conditions is in some way mediated, or contained in some way, by something
else. Rosa then argues that if the two conditions mutually exclude each
other, they cannot co-exist, but this is just an assertion with an appeal to
tautological definition. BTW Rosa's Phd dissertation must be total rubbish,
you can tell that straightaway from the puberal mode of argumentation. The
real logical or semantic question is, under what condition would it make
sense (or to be reasonable) to speak of two opposite conditions which
nevertheless presuppose each other? Reflective dialectical thought goes
right back to Heraclitus and even earlier, and there are many different ways
of describing dialectical contradictions and their further implications, I
don't deny that. But the basic idea is quite simple, and there is no
 mystery about it at all, our facilitary and front office staff have deal
with this sort of thing all the time.

> Alas, dialecticians are always making this mistake. An inconsistency, in
> its simplest form, involves two propositions which cannot both be true,
> but they can both be false, whereas a contradiction involves two
> propositions that cannot both be true and cannot both be false. So, in
> logic no contradiction (sans phrase) is an inconsistency, nor vice versa.

This already shows that Rosa does not grasp formal logic, notwithstanding
the brainless Wittgenstein bullshit, which is a ruse.

> And yet you failed to tell us what the 'dialectical contradiction' is
> here!

Well, it's very simple Rosa: just like in Catch-22, what you are dealing
with is that in order to apply the rule, you have to negate the rule, and in
order to not apply the rule, you have to apply the rule. This may seem
unprincipled, but in the bureaucracy there is always a hierarchy of
principles which renders such improvisation legitimate. This situation
arises, often, because academics like Rosa, who styles himself a
"Witgensteinian Trotskyite", are paid rich helpings of tax money to devise
rule systems and conceptual hierarchies which cannot in fact be applied,
because these so-called "academics" have an extremely poor understanding of
what is actually humanly, socially and practically involved in a work
process or an administrative process. Their task is to describe what's
happening and rendering it meaningful to the ivory tower of management,
Plato's philosopher kings, but this is obviously quite different from the
operative staff who actually have to make things work, and therefore face
dialectical contradictions all the time.

> Yes, I know about "fuzzy logic" and "informal logic", but I fail to see
> how this helps anyone understand the obscure phrase "dialectical
> contradiction".

Here Rosa misses the point completely. The real point is that non-arbitrary
human reasoning extends far beyond what we can capture in deductive and
inductive inference, and that is just where dialectical reason only begins!
But "Rosa" has no grasp of it at all. Now how can we ever have any
constructive discussion when Rosa doesn't even understand the most
elementary problems of reason?

> Well, there is much here I could take issue with, but I won't since it is
> not directly connected with the challenge I raised to Andrew - what the
> hell is a (Marxist) 'dialectical contradiction'? - but I notice you keep
> helping yourself to the phrase "dialectical contradiction" when it is
> still far from clear what one of these is. [Much of the above is in fact
> an idealist analysis, anyway --, unless, of course, you can give it a
> materialist twist somehow. And, good luck there! No one has succeeded on
> that score in the last 150 years.]

This is just puberal, studenty pharisee crap once again. Of course you are
going to be perpetually puzzled by the normality of "dialectical
contradictions" if you deny their existence tooth and nail! It would be like
saying the sun doesn't exist, even although everybody thinks the sun does
exist, on the ground that most people cannot adequately "define" the sun in
terms of formal logic. Well, big deal.

> Thanks for that, but I am no clearer - and since I am interested in a
> Marxist analysis of this obscure phrase, I'm not sue you are the person to
> help me.

Yeah, Rosa does need help, but he or she "is not sure I am the person to
help him or her". When all else fails, hang out the victim... The hypocrisy
is that I already tried to help him/her, by explaining what a dialectical
contradiction is and what the utility of dialectics is, in plain language,
sacrificing the free time that I have. Then he/she says, "I am not sure".
Well, big deal. On to the next one.

> And the Einstein quote you added seems to confirm that you are indeed an
> Idealist, just like he was.

This again is a dumb slur from the nihilist enemy of reason which Rosa is.
Einstein as a physicist was not at all an "idealist", other than having
political and human ideals. Einstein is referring to the fact that our
ability to actually test theories is far more limited than our creative
ability to theorize and draw logical inferences, in part because our ability
to construct valid empirical tests is practically limited, whereas our
ability to speculate theoretically in abstracto is much less limited, so
that the effect is, that the amount of scientific theory we have, is
typically disproportionately larger than the amount of valid scientific
evidence to back it up. He suggests that there exists a series of basic
("axiomatic") assumptions, discovered through creative inquiry, which, "if"
they are true, would explain the scientific evidence we have, and if we do
not have those assumptions, then we cannot explain the scientific evidence.
This may seem to weaken the possibilities for scientific knowledge, but in
fact armed with these assumptions we are able to explain very much, since we
can show convincingly that predictions made using these assumptions will in
most cases yield confirmation of the assumptions, or are at least consistent
with what we would would expect. The point is that these "axiomatic"
assumptions cannot themselves derive simply from the data, though they are
informed by them - the central problem of dialectical theory - nor are they
amenable to a complete proof by the data. But that is just to say that
Einstein, as a scientific realist, rejected a simplistic empiricist account
of the relationship between theory and data, according to which Hempelian
"covering laws" are strictly generalisations from clusters of sense data.
The theory, which contains many logical inferences, and the data gathered,
are for Einstein "semi-autonomous" from each other: they inform each other
but are not reducible to each other. He implies thereby that the task of
science is to bring the theories we have, and the data we produce, closer
together in a rational way, and he expresses his optimism that creative
inquiry can enable us to do this - possibly, with the belief that, since we
are ourselves part of the universe, we are able to improve our understanding
of it. This contrasts with the skepticist mysticism of the Popperian view
according to which reality is too complex and variegated, and our abilities
too limited, for us to know very much for certain about it at all, so that
most people are deluded, and all we can do is demolish illusions, even
although there are always far more illusions than we can demolish. Einstein
suggests that in reality people are not so deluded as Karl Popper implies
and that the "proof is in the pudding" ("The skeptic will say: "It may well
be true that this system of equations is reasonable from a logical
standpoint. But this does not prove that it corresponds to nature." You are
right, dear skeptic. Experience alone can decide on truth.") - if we are
able to transform nature consistent with our explicated theory of it, this
is an experiential proof of sorts that we can really know essential aspects
of nature, even if the proof is not an absolute and final one.

The bourgeois intellectuals wax with an air of profundity about all the
things we cannot know about "financial risk" and so on, completely ignoring
what billions of ordinary folks are proving by their actions every day!
Which just tells us that their so-called "innocence" (ignorance really) is
just feigned, growing out of their own loves and hates. In the same way,
"Rosa" hates "dialectical materialism" and tries to create an elaborate
defence of that hate. But the real scientific questions are thereby missed
altogether. I have never denied that "dialectical materialism" is a
philosophy of Marxist-Leninist bureaucratism, and I have strongly
argued against its totalitarian applications. My views on this issue
are on public record. But it is another thing to deny the existence
of the dialectical characteristics of reality. I am not prepared to do
that, in good part because I experience them every day as a normal
occurrence, and to deny that would be to deny part of reality. Of
course I realise that academic theorists, seeking to be profound,
concoct all kinds of nonsense about dialectics, but this does not
deter me at all from acknowledging the dialectical characteristics
which reality can have. It is just that, rather than focusing on the
nonsense, I studied writers like Charles Taylor and Mario Bunge,
in other words people who tried to make some constructive
sense of the notion.


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Received on Thu Sep 10 13:54:44 2009

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